O Canada!, Canada's national anthem, was approved by Parliament in 1967 and officially adopted under the National Anthem Act, 27 June 1980. The music was written by composer Calixa LAVALLÉE and the words by Judge Adolphe-Basile ROUTHIER. Several attempts had been made to compose a national song for French Canadians, including one by Sir George-Étienne CARTIER, who sang his "O Canada! mon pays! mes amours!" at the founding meeting of the ST-JEAN-BAPTISTE SOCIETY in 1834. The origins of Lavallée's work, however, are not clear. He may have been invited to compose a national song for the St-Jean Baptiste celebrations in June 1880. An article in La Presse (December 1920) claimed that Routhier wrote the words first and that Lt-Gov Théodore Robitaille begged Lavallée to put them to music. Routhier's own version was that he had heard Lavallée perform the "march héroïque" and wrote all 4 verses the next night.
The English version of Canada's national anthem, "O Canada." From You Tube.
In any case, words and music were completed by early May 1880 as announcements were made in the press that 5000 copies would be distributed to the public. It is not known if "O Canada!" was premiered, as intended, during a mass held on the Plains of Abraham on the morning of 24 June 1880, but it was certainly performed that evening at a banquet at the skaters' pavilion at Québec City, attended by Gov Gen the marquess of Lorne. The song's popularity grew in Québec, but it was not heard in English Canada until 20 years later. It was likely sung in Toronto in 1901 for a visit of the future King George V, but in a literal translation that was not well received. The translation that gained popularity was written in 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir, Montréal-based lawyer and author (1858-1926). The words were somewhat altered after debate in Parliament in 1967. The words of the first verse in English and in French are as follows.
O Canada! Our home and native land! True patriot love in all thy sons command. With glowing hearts we see thee rise, The True North strong and free! From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. God keep our land glorious and free! O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!
O Canada First Edition Calixa Lavallée appeared on the cover of the first edition of the words and music to "O Canada" (courtesy Musée du Seminaire de Québec).
"O Canada": Amabile Youth Singers O Canada! Our home and native land! / True patriot love in all thy sons command. / With glowing hearts we see thee rise, / The True North strong and free! / From far and wide, O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. / God keep our land glorious and free! / O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. / O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!
With the Amabile Youth Singers of London, Ontario, singing O! Canada (courtesy Amabile Choir).
"O Canada": Amabile Youth Singers O Canada, terre de nos aieux / Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux, / Car ton bras sait porter l'épée, / Il sait porter la croix! / Ton histoire est une épopée / Des plus brillants exploits. / Et ta valeur de foi trempée, / Protégera nos foyers et nos droits, / Protégera nos foyers et nos droits (avec la permission du Amabile Youth Singers).
O Canada! The musical score to Canada's national anthem, O Canada!, with lyrics in French and English (courtesy Canadian Heritage).
Lavallée, Calixa Calixa Lavallée, composer of the National Anthem "O Canada" and one of a generation of pioneers who nourished the growth of music in early Canada (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-70448).
Ô Canada, terre de nos aïeux Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux, Car ton bras sait porter l'épée, Il sait porter la croix! Ton histoire est une épopée Des plus brillants exploits. Et ta valeur de foi trempée, Protégera nos foyers et nos droits, Protégera nos foyers et nos droits
Links to Other Sites Symbols of Canada
An illustrated guide to national and provincial symbols of Canada, our national anthem, national and provincial holidays, and more. Click on "Historical Flags of Canada" and then "Posters of Historical Flags of Canada" for additional images. From the Canadian Heritage website.
Les Voltigeurs de Québec
Watch the Heritage Minute about Canada's national anthem from the Historica-Dominion Institute. See also related online learning resources.
Sheet music from Canada's past
A very extensive collection of digitalized copies of sheet music published before Confederation and during the First World War. Includes patriotic and parlour songs, piano pieces, sacred music, novelty numbers, and more. Also, check out the sheet music covers that appear in the Gallery section. From Library and Archives Canada.
Information on Canada’s history and geography, famous Canadians, the evolution of the Canadian government, what to do when visiting or touring Canada and much more. From the Government of Canada.
The Canadian State: Documents & Dialogue
The Canadian State Web exhibition enables students to explore the various aspects of Canadian governance and to use a set of unique "real life" activities to create their own political party. The activities cover a wide variety of Social Science disciplines: History, Civics, Law, Language Arts, World Issues, Communications, and Canada in a North American Perspective. From Library and Archives Canada.
A biography of Adolphe-Basile Routhier lawyer, author, judge, and professor. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
A biography of Calixa Lavallée, pianist, composer, and music teacher. From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online.
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